Supreme Court hears arguments for and against Affirmative Action

The Supreme Court has begun to weigh arguments in regard to Affirmative Action.

Affirmative Action refers to a broad set of techniques and strategies to increase diversity in a given field or area. Affirmative action is generally associated with race and “quotas” but the programs are broader than that. However, in this case, the Supreme Court is considering the racial angle. Specifically, the constitutionality of using race as a factor in college admissions.

The Supreme Court has ruled on this issue a couple of times in the past two decades.

In 2003 the court ruled in Gratz v. Bollinger that the University of Michigan’s practice of giving underrepresented groups extra points toward admission was a violation of the 14th amendment.

In 2016 the court ruled in Fisher v. University of Texas that schools had an understandable interest in creating a diverse student body and that their limited use of race as a minor factor passed the test of “strict scrutiny” and did not violate the Equal Protection Clause.

The cases before the court now are Students for Fair Admissions v. President & Fellows of Harvard College and Students For Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina. Both cases are the project of Edward Blum. A conservative litigant who specializes in challenging race-based policies. If he gets his way the decisions in these court cases will overturn the previous decisions that allowed for use of race in admissions.

The conservative majority seems poised to oblige. Several of the conservative justices are openly skeptical of the use of race. A couple actually were on the dissenting end of the previous 2016 decision.  

Opponents of the policies say that they are unfair to White and Asian students and violate the Equal Protection Clause. Proponents say that colleges need these policies to have a diverse pool of students.

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